Weekly Brief – Crunch time 2.0

UK PM Theresa May’s meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement takes place on Tuesday and so far looks set for another defeat. If the deal is rejected, again, the votes that follow will offer Parliament the chance to go for a no-deal Brexit (almost certain to be rejected) or request an extension of Article 50 (most likely). Such pivotal events are likely to overshadow the Chancellor’s update on the Government’s finances in the Spring Statement.

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Export orders fall at their fastest pace in 69 months

Today sees the release of February data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled that business activity in Northern Ireland rose only fractionally in February. The near-stagnation in output reflected Brexit worries, with total new orders falling for the first time in 28 months, new export business down sharply and business sentiment turning negative. Meanwhile, companies lowered their staffing levels for the second month running.

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Slowest rise in output in 23 months

Today sees the release of September data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled a further loss of growth momentum across the local private sector. Business activity, new orders and employment all rose at weaker rates, while sentiment dropped to the lowest in the 19-month series history. Rates of both input cost and output price inflation remained elevated, but continued to ease at the end of the third quarter.

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New report reveals Northern Ireland job vacancies at a new high

  • Number of jobs listed on NIJobs.com rose by 18% in the first quarter of 2018
  • One quarter of employment categories posted their highest number of listings to date
  • YoY Growth in job opportunities across NI- Antrim 35%, Derry 28%, Down 21%
  • Skills shortages and staff turnover will continue to disrupt company growth

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Timely indicator of what’s happening in the jobs market

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Official figures continue to point to a buoyant Northern Ireland labour market in the third quarter of 2017. Private sector jobs notched up a thirteenth consecutive quarterly rise and are at their highest level since records began in 1974. Public sector job losses have stabilised (at least for the time being) and are around 10% below their 2009 peak. Overall, Northern Ireland has almost 19,000 more jobs (+3%) than at the pre-recession peak. Significantly, there has been a pick-up in full-time employment growth in Q3 which had previously been lagging behind the surge in part-time employment.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Over and out

The UK economy can chalk up 2017 as a decent, if unspectacular, 12 months. Growth will likely be slower this year compared to last, but not by much. The trouble is some signs of weakening are appearing, most importantly on the jobs front, after what has been a lengthy period of economic expansion. A bumpier 2018 ahead?
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